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M. Night Shyamalan

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Posted 1st February 2011 at 12:56 PM by Bringer Of Funerals

To me, Shyamalan's work is much closer to that of filmmakers like Lynch, Zulawski, Hartley and Weerasethakul; it's that strange mixture of the abstract and the conventional, with stylised performances and dialog that doesn't even attempt to sound realistic because everything in the film is designed in order to achieve a specific emotional response.

Unlike those filmmakers, Shyamalan releases art-films to a mainstream audience, but still fully embraces the same quirks, eccentricities and personal indulgences. He doesn't make films for the audience; he doesn't do test-screenings or collaborate with other people. His films are an attempt to explore the themes and ideas that are personally appealing to him. It's an uneasy marriage of styles that leaves him open to critique, but he has no real reason to bow to the general consensus (Renoir was endlessly parodied and ridiculed when he began painting in the 'impressionist' style, but who's laughing now?)

Again, if Hal Hartley had directed the Spiderman films the backlash against him would have been just as vocal. The same thing when Lynch directed Dune; there are still a number of viewers and critics that have never forgiven Lynch for supposedly destroying the commercial potential of the book.

It's also worth noting that after the success of Twin Peaks there was another huge backlash against Lynch. Wild at Heart, Fire Walk with Me and Lost Highway were all panned by critics (and even booed in some theatres) and did very little business financially. It wasn't until The Straight Story that he started to win back some influence with critics and viewers. However, Fire and Walk with Me and Lost Highway are both incredible films, so the audience and critics were wrong; just as they're wrong about The Village and Lady in the Water.

Maybe the reason so many people hate him (the sheer ferocity of the criticism still surprises me) is because they come to films like The Village and Lady in the Water expecting Zack Snyder or Darren Aronofsky, when really they should be excepting Juraj Herz or Vera Chytilova. It's a completely different kind of filmmaking.
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